27 Nov 2020
On 31 October 2020 Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D'Aguilar addressed the easing of restrictions on air travel to, from and within The Bahamas. The Emergency Powers (COVID-19 Pandemic) (8) Order 2020, which came into effect on 9 October 2020, had placed further restrictions on air travel. A travel health visa, subject to certain exceptions (eg, children under 10 years of age and crew of commercial airlines), is still required by persons travelling into or within The Bahamas.To obtain a travel health visa, applicants must first undergo an RT-PCR COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test at an accredited laboratory. The test must indicate that a person is negative or that COVID-19 has not been detected.
Commercial or private flights are authorised by the director general of The Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority for the purpose of travel into, within and out of The Bahamas. The director general's approval strictly concerns aircraft and is not an approval for the entry of an individual into the country or for inter-island travel.
On arrival in The Bahamas (at an approved port of entry), all passengers will be subject to a rapid antigen test. They will also be tested five days after their arrival unless their stay is for fewer days than this. As of 14 November 2020, all visitors must have COVID-19 insurance, which will be included in the cost of the travel health visa. Airlines (including operators of any aircraft) must ensure that all passengers boarding any flight:
Operators of aircraft travelling to or within The Bahamas must report to the chief medical officer as soon as possible, and no later than on arrival in The Bahamas, the details of any passengers displaying COVID-19 symptoms.
Prior to any inter-island travel, passengers must obtain a travel health visa to be presented to the carrier at check-in. All persons travelling from New Providence must have taken the required negative COVID-19 test prior to applying for a travel health visa. On arrival at another island, although the mandatory 14-day quarantine at a government-approved facility is no longer required, individuals must still have a rapid antigen test five days after their arrival on the island. However, there are a few islands that require persons to submit to mandatory quarantine, as cases vary from island to island. Persons travelling inter-island for emergency purposes may do so provided that written confirmation from a health officer or the Royal Bahamas Police Force is obtained and clearly states that they are travelling for emergency purposes. Air operator employees need not undergo a COVID-19 test or obtain a travel health visa. Persons travelling to New Providence from certain islands as set out in the schedule of the order need not obtain a COVID-19 test prior to travel but must provide a negative test result prior to their departure from New Providence to return to another island within The Bahamas.
Like the rest of the world, the Bahamian aviation sector continues to reel from the effects of the pandemic; its economic loss is yet to be determined. The challenges of the pandemic are insurmountable and vary from day to day and place much stress and burden on air carriers. The country's major international airport (Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA)) has been extremely proactive in ensuring that all safety protocols have been implemented and in September 2020 last obtained the Airports Council International Latin America and the Caribbean Health Accreditation, which clearly illustrates the LPIA's loyalty to protecting the health and safety of the travelling public and its staff.
Llewellyn V Boyer-Cartwright